“Humanity sucks and they don’t deserve saving.”-Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones (played by the fabulous Krysten Ritter) is a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen with super strength and a drinking problem, she goes around town catching cheaters in back allies. That’s how we’re introduced to her. Until a figure from her past appears and wrecks her life, again.
That figure is Kilgrave (portrayed brilliantly by David Tennant). Through flashbacks and some conversations we learn that Kilgrave is a villain who can control people’s minds and make them do what he wants. He fell in love with Jessica and held her against her will and without her consent for an undisclosed number of days. But eventually Jessica was able to get him out of her mind and escape, and in the process believing he died.
But surprise, Kilgrave ain’t dead. He lures Jessica back in by taking captive a young lady, Hope Shlottman. Jessica saves Hope but Kilgrave’s grasp on Hope hasn’t faded and he makes her kill her parents. Now Hope is imprisoned for murder and no one, save Jessica, believes that she was under Kilgrave’s influence.
So that’s the premise, and the rest of the series is Jessica trying to clear Hope’s name and capture Kilgrave.
Throughout the series we are introduced to several characters:
- Jeri Hogarth: The sharkiest lawyer in New York whom Jessica works with occasionally.
- Trish Walker: Jessica’s best friend and the only person she cares about.
- Luke Cage: another superhero in Hell’s Kitchen, his specialty? Unbreakable skin.
- Will Simpson: army veteran and NYPD cop who becomes Trish’s lover. He’s obsessed with killing Kilgrave and is often at odds with Jessica Jones. We later learn that he was part of an undercover army program that works on combat enhancement.
- Finally, Malcolm: a gentle soul. Jessica’s neighbor, he starts off as a drug addict but eventually through a cheesy redemptive story arc becomes a hero.
“Jessica: Breaking and entering, that’s my speciality.
Luke: As opposed to punching, kicking, drinking, and talking shit?”
Gosh this is such a great show! I devoured it in a week (and for those who know me, know how slow of a watcher I am…) I couldn’t stop watching it, it was just so good. So good. Just watching the pilot gets under your skin…I had a weird visceral reaction to it, it’s so dark and gloomy.
Plot, setting, scenes…
I love how the plot unfolds very subtly. I love origin stories, but they’re rarely done well so I was afraid they might botch this one up but surprisingly, we don’t get any long back stories. It begins in medea res and we’re thrown in with the characters. Though I have to say I found it a bit redundant that Jessica captured Kilgrave twice and he escapes, I don’t know exactly how it could’ve been improved, but it just seemed a bit lacking in events. Like oh she’s off to capture him again and he’ll have to escape so that we can have another couple of episodes. I know the nature of the show makes this impossible, Jessica is literally after Kilgrave and has to capture him and the addition of minor plots or crimes would’ve been lame so I honestly don’t know how to improve this I just think that it’s not that great.
The setting was great. I like the claustrophobic feeling you get from the generally cramped spaces juxtaposed with the open streets. The colors, the overall purplish and black hue was suiting. That being said, I didn’t like the fight scenes at all. They involved a lot of table pushing and shoving people through walls. It wasn’t choreographed well. I know she’s not formally trained in the martial arts so all she can do is punch and kick powerfully but it didn’t seem real, unlike Daredevil. It was very much the same moves over and over again and lots of punching through walls. And the wounds the characters got seemed fake, so there was that.
The music was a bit meh…I know it’s supposed to be jazz and film noir and all but it was distracting. It didn’t flow with the narrative.
The show brazenly deals with a lot of political and societal issues and it was refreshing. Most obviously it deals with the issue of rape and sexual assault:
Kilgrave: “We used to do a lot more than just touch hands.”
Jessica: “Yeah. It’s called rape.”
Kilgrave: “What? Which part of staying in five-star hotels, eating at all the best places, doing whatever the hell you wanted, is rape?”
Jessica: “The part where I didn’t want to do any of it! Not only did you physically rape me, but you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head.”
Kilgrave: “That is not what I was trying to do.”
Jessica: “It doesn’t matter what you were trying to do. You raped me again and again and again—”
It’s not afraid to call out rape culture and to emphasize consent. I think it’s smart how the whole show is really about the aftermath of such an event, Jessica Jones, a superhero is broken and trying to recover from being sexually assaulted. It shows that even the strongest women can be victims of sexual assault, that recovery is painstaking, that it leaves the person broken, a shadow of themselves…it shows you how much sexism and misogyny still exist in our world. It shows how women are doubted in times of crisis, it highlight’s rape culture. I also think their depiction of PTSD was genius, it just shows how cruel and debilitating the condition is and how therapy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. (This article explores the topic of rape in Jessica Jones more fully).
The show also brushes on issues of race, especially the issue of systematic racism with regards to the way Malcolm is treated by other characters. But I’m assuming the issue of race is more fully explored in Luke Cage (which I will watch after I watch season 2 of Daredevil).
Another issue brought up is that of, let us call it maybe compassion or lack thereof? I don’t know what to call it really, but it’s the prevalence of cynicism and individualism in society now. This is most poignantly pointed out by Malcolm in a conversation with Robyn where he says:
Malcom: What is it with people?
Robyn: At best they’re assholes, at worst they’re zombie assassins.
Malcolm: So what, it’s just every man for himself, then, huh? Everything I learned in church, all the praying that my mom did for the sick and the dying, all the… all the community projects my dad worked on, basically, everything that they taught me… it was all bullshit? They’re idiots and I’m just the only asshole in the world who didn’t know?
It’s kinda sad how much truth there is in his statement.
Characterization, relationship dynamics, and other stuff…
Jessica Jones: First of all, Krysten Ritter’s face is just perfect for the role. There’s a way about how she looks that makes you applaud the casting team. Ritter is phenomenal at expression emotions and going from cynical, solemn, asshole, to a total powerful and determined kickass. She conveys so many emotions in her face it’s just fantastic. And to have Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) as her foil was a smart move, because it highlight’s the extent of Jessica’s broken state and compromised morality. Another great move the creators did with the characterization of Jessica’s character was the “before Kilgrave” flashback, it was so revealing. It came in the right moment and having Jessica smile and laugh genuinely in that was perfect, just the right thing to show how much she has changed.
The conversations Jessica has with Luke about their powers, their morality and responsibility, were very interesting. It’s conversations like this that make the show worth watching, because unlike other superhero shows where the hero is a hero because it’s their calling, these heroes are realistic they’re in the game because of a personal vendetta or because they’re the only ones who can do the job.They doubt and question their actions and every move they’re not confident and it just makes them so human.
I loved Jessica’s interaction with nurse Claire, their banter was great and I wanted more of it.
Another great moment in characterizing Jessica was when she thinks about turning Kilgrave into a hero, how she can use him to fight crime. She tries to see the good in him only to then do what Jessica would do and kick his ass hard. It was a great moment that reveals so much about Jessica’s state of mind.
One of my favorite scenes in the show is in the finale when Jessica and Trish come up with a code word to indicate that Jessica is still in her right mind and not controlled by Kilgrave and Jessica says “I love you” to Trish. I know it might be cheesy but it was such a touching moment and I went all “AWWW” It was so sweet and Jessica finally opening up to Trish it just shows how far she’s come. It was a great characterization moment.
One more cheesy moment, or theme…I really like how Jessica’s journey to redemption is through Hope Shlottman. The focus is on one person as a representation of something bigger and that makes my humanist soul flutter with joy. And sure, her name is Hope and she’s Jessica’s hope, it’s a bit on the nose and heavy handed but it adds a nice touch to a dark show.
Trish Walker: I didn’t think the character of Trish Walker was fully developed. She seemed like a static auxiliary character when she had the potential of being more than that. I wanted to see more of her other than just being Jessica’s foil. I wanted to see more of her childhood and her relationship with her mother, I wanted more. I guess we’ll learn more about Trish in season 2 but I still think they could’ve developed her character more.
Will Simpson: I don’t like Simpson. I think he’s a misogynistic jingoistic prick. Too full of himself and just plain annoying. He’s proof that the real monsters and the real villains are plain old humans with nothing super about them..maybe they’re worse with combat enhancement but still it shows the monstrous side of humans.
Now about the enhancements…I didn’t like how it was done. I like the idea of it, I think it’s great but to have them working after a few seconds was hard to believe, it was easier to believe that Jessica was a superhero than it was to believe that Simpson could be her match just seconds after popping some pills. They should’ve given them more time to activate.
Kilgrave: In the first two episodes we only hear Kilgrave’s voice and see the back of his head and that immediately brought to mind the introduction of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. The darkness enshrouding the character reflecting the mysterious nature of the character was pure genius. He’s subtly introduced through actions, such as locking the kids up in the closet, these small acts of villainy show you the extent of his evil-ness.
I love how they casually introduced what Kilgrave did to Jessica. It is implied that he raped her and then stated explicitly but in the beginning, the moment when we see him taking her by the hand so subtly and eloquently. I didn’t see it coming. It’s wicked smart! And it mirrors the way Kilgrave controls his victims, subtly and eloquently.
Kilgrave is motivated by love, presumably. He’s in love with Jessica and is willing to manipulate and kill as much as he can to satisfy his desires all the while denying that he killed or hurt anyone. He also denies raping Jessica because “he didn’t know that she didn’t want it” and says that he “did what she wanted”, I mean it just exemplifies rape culture and toxic masculinity. A guy can’t bed the girl he wants, can’t handle rejection so he goes on a rampage only to deny it all when the damage is done. The key to Kilgrave’s villainy (and the message to society) is the fact that he keeps denying his actions, he says he’s not evil.
Now Marvel likes to make it’s superheroes and villains realistic and sympathetic, or let’s say provides a logical explanation to why they are the way they are. Kilgrave is evil because his parents were mad scientists who experimented on him and infected him with a virus that gave him the ability to control minds. I didn’t like that. Attributing Kilgrave’s powers to a mere virus takes a way the mystery and charm of it, it’s disenchanting and too simplistic. I would’ve liked it more if his origins were left unknown or at least if it were attributed to a psychological reaction to his parents’ tests, something intangible and not a virus with a vaccine that’s too…lame.
Kilgrave’s death was epic (irony intended). I loved how a hero finally realizes that the villain can’t be dealt with in the traditional criminal system, that he has done so much harm and deserves to die. It was refreshing to see the villain off’ed like that especially since shows nowadays tend to shy away from killing main characters and or they do kill them only to bring them back to life (see How Hollywood Killed Death). For Jessica to cross that line of morality and do the right thing was simply a wonderful moment. It was a neat ending, clean and I liked the simplicity and crudity of his death. It was so cathartic.
I loved the jokes about Kilgrave’s name, snufflecorpse…ha!
Note on Robyn: The character of Robyn, at least how I saw it, was to function as the “natural fool”, the mentally unstable character who serves as a comic relief. At first I found her ridiculous and even funny, but then I felt guilty because I realized that this is mental illness used as a means for ridicule. But then again I wonder, is it really mental illness or am I reading too much into it? What do you think about Robyn?
And to end, the show has way too many sex scenes. Call me a prude, but they were not necessary for the plot to advance. The fling between Jessica and Luke, I can understand but having it on screen over and over again was too much.